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Cartagena: Three centuries after the British sunk the fabled Spanish ship San Jose, loaded with extraordinary riches, Columbia is said to have discovered this ‘holy grail of shipwrecks’ as described by some treasure hunters.

“This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity,” declared Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday, from Cartagena, a port city near to where the discovery was made.

The fascinating San Jose, which even features in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, had escaped treasure hunters for decades.

According to the US-based company Sea Search Armada (SSA), the wealth on the ship is estimated to be at around 2 billion US dollars. The value has apparently dropped significantly due to the falling price of silver.

SSA was engaged in a lengthy battle with the Columbian government since it claimed in the early 1980s that it had found where the galleon lay. However, the find was not confirmed and it was ultimately declared to be Columbian property by the US court.

It was during the War of Spanish Succession, that British ships attempting to take its cargo sank the San Jose off Columbia’s Caribbean coast near the Islas del Rosario, in June 1708. Of the ship’s 600-strong crew, hardly a handful survived.

This galleon was a part of a fleet of ships carrying gold and treasure from the American colonies of Spain to King Philip V.

The wind and ocean current patterns of 307-years-ago Caribbean were studied by a team of researchers with both national and foreign representatives, including a stalwart from the group that discovered the Titanic in 1985. They delved into Spanish and Columbian colonial archives to look for clues to the ship’s location.

The San Jose was discovered on November 27 “in a place never before referenced by previous research,” said the President. In the process of the search, a minimum of five other major shipwrecks were found as well.

The San Jose was identified, according to experts, by its engraved dolphins and its unique bronze cannons.

Head of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, Ernesto Montenegro, said that the “amount and type of the material leave no doubt of the identity”.



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